These food startups rely on your mood, preferences

NEW YORK–AlleyBoost is one of the few tech meetups in the city that almost always starts on time, precisely because it’s set up like a class, complete with school desks and a blackboard. But that’s also because it’s often held at Mercy College where Professor Wazi holds fort as moderator. It’s a classroom for stasrtups.

When you go the AlleyBoost’s meetups, the demonstrations are almost stripped to the bare minimum at times with founders letting their voice, without the crutch of a Powerpoint slide presentation, do most of the showmanship. It’s certainly for the early startup, those still finding their identity and testing if their startups have legs to compete out there.

Last April 26, AlleyBoost showcased startups CraveFeed and Friendly Reminder with guests Alex Lorton, co-founder of, Daniel Buelhoff, CEO and co-founder of YummChef, Kris Schumacher, co-founder of Nextdoorganics, and Allison R. Stewart, strategic partnerships manager at FOODX.

“Instagram meets Google Shopping” is how Cravefeed envisions its startup. It hopes to suggest food selections based on your mood and feelings and hopes to partner with Grubhub and for deliveries. Cravefeed hopes the audience will share their cravings the way they share their food photos on Instagram.  

Friendly Reminders, on the other hand, sees an opportunity in helping a dinner host prepare meals with dietary restrictions and food preferences to big groups.  This would certainly be good for those with guests with food allergies. is trying to transform how offices eat by matching small food vendors with companies in need of catering. Founded in 2010 in San Francisco, the company also serves New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington, DC, Boston and other cities. sources one-of-a-kind meals from local farmers market purveyors, food trucks, boutique caterers, chef-owned restaurants and more, and connects these exciting food makers with businesses of all sizes, effortlessly managing every step of the planning and delivery process. has served thousands of top companies and has partnered with thousands of food providers, featuring numerous national and local award-winning chefs.

Buelhoff’s Yummchef is an instant booking marketplace that connects chefs with food lovers. Local chefs create great recipes and meals, make pre-portioned ready-to-heat meals or cooking kits also with pre-portioned ingredients for fast home-cooking. It’s a same-day delivery service.

Schumacher’s Nextdoorganics brings curated weekly packages of the highest quality sustainable, traceable local organic foods. From our Brooklyn home base, we’ve connected with nearby farms and small-batch food makers to give you fresh produce, pastured meats, line caught fish, artisanal pantry items, and house made snacks.

A night of food startups would not be complete without FOODX, the first international business accelerator program specializing in food-related ventures. It constantly develops an ecosystem of community partners, organizations, investors, and individuals to fuel its success.

Story behind Just Not Sorry’s 100,000 downloads in a month

NEW YORK– If you haven’t heard Just Not Sorry, don’t be sorry for yourself. The gmail plugin helps email users avoid using “just”, “sorry” and other weak words that undermine your message. It makes sure to strip out the highlighting before you hit send. In a month’s time, the app was downloaded 100,000 times, thanks to a healthy dose of media coverage that included morning TV shows and publishing sites.

Tami Reiss, CEO of Cyrus Innovation who had the idea, and Steve Brudz, who built the app, thinks that when you are creating an app, “simple is smart” and you have to be solving a “real problem.”

Reiss and Brudz walked the audience through its agile development at the Lean/Agile Practitioners meetup last April 18 at Kaplan Center in the Upper East Side. Reiss has worked with teams to develop technology solutions on platforms ranging from mainframe systems to modern microservice architectures and iOS.  Brudz is an engineering lead and agile coach at Cyrus Innovation with more than 16 years of experience in software development.

In building the app, Tami and Brudz said it is important to build fast, even if it gets messy in the beginning. They searched for how others have done similar things, researched open source libraries and wrote code in a week. They say never spend more than day on a spike.

They built it by getting feedback and iterating accordingly. Their advice. “Demonstrate progress regularly, listen to feedback and limit your work in progress.”

“Write automated tests where the benefit outweighs the cost,”Brudz said. There are faster types of code that you can use/test– recursion. “Code has lots of conditionals. Testing can help you get faster.”

In the iterations of the “trigger words,” they also took us to the time it first highlighted the words (iteration 1), then upon review, changed it to a dotted line (iteration 2) before it became a dotted line with explanation (iteration 3) and finally, a dashed line (with explanation) after feedback that said the previous iteration was too close to Google’s Spell Check.

After doing several landing page optimizations and Instapage AB tests, they recall launching on Product Hunt. On the day it launched on that site, they instantly got 79 downloads. With its media coverage later, which started with a media contact and a catchy name of course, the app eventually got its 100,000 downloads.

They are clearly not sorry about the name, because they knew Just Not Sorry would make a good hashtag — and the rest is history.

Social media experts: Start early on new social networks, reach out to influencers

NEW YORK–You won’t find a meetup that dissects each social network these days but last April 20, AlleyBoost did just that in its talk, “Social Media Done Right” featuring Courtney Spritzer, co-founder and COO of Socialfly; Jeongwoon Eun, founder of Tigerwon; and Pavel Konoplenko, co-founder and CEO of Spoiled Media at Workville near Times Square.

On Facebook

  • If you are just starting on Facebook, use paid advertising as it’s hard now to grow organically
  • Tryt hangout for Facebook
  • You need optimal time and frequency on Facebook
  • Only way to tell it’ working for you is by experimenting: Post one a or five times a day
  • Test ad buys worth $5 dollars a day
  • You might as well work with Facebook (as big as it is), not against it
  • Try Instant Articles
  • Start Facebook Live now
  • Post inspiring quotes
  • Video does well

On Twitter:

  • Still good for reaching to journalists and publications
  • Twitter is important for political figures
  • Twitter is becoming more of an aggregator
  • Twitter is good for breaking news
  • Used for complaining
  • Make use of Twitter’s Periscope for live streaming
  • Too noisy of a platform

On Instagram:

  • Try Instameets; communities in all those networks can be very big
  • When you do the ads, you can have your link
  • Any brand that is visual should be on Instagram
  • Fashion brands should be on Instagram
  • Use it as recruiting tool
  • Influencer marketing is good for instagram
  • With algorithm, (photo) can be curated better

On Snapchat

  • Influencers are active here
  • You will see more branded content
  • Use to find influencers on Snapchat
  • Snapchat videos are difficult  to discover
  • Snaps only take a brief period of time before they disappear
  • You can’t flaunt number of followers because there’s none, which means you can’t buy followers
  • It’s a whole new world for  cultural immersion


  • You need content and influencer strategies
  • You need to adopt early to new social networks to have organic growth
  • You will want to test out that content against a  different audience
  • Always measure results
  • Looking to market to China? try Wechat
  • Good storytelling is a good way to sell your product
  • Use Periscope for live streaming events
  • Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk uses all the different platforms
  • YouTube and Pinterest are still relevant

The meetup also had two presentations with Parisa Wang of Parisa NYC and Craig Ettinger, founder and CEO of Tastebud talking about their startups. Wang showcased her handbags, lining them up on the floor, as she talked about how each bag represented a story, from breakup to independence, in what she called a “relationship journey.”

Wang showed how one handbag’s clever conception; it can be slung on her arm, so “I can free my hand to hold his hand. She is launching a Kickstarter campaign in May to produce more of the bags pegged at $200 to $500.  

Ettinger opened his presentation by talking about how the US spends $60 billion in entertainment every year and how his iOS app, Tastebud, is about sharing their recommended entertainment choices–books, music, movies, podcasts.

“These are for people who like to sift through the entertainment haystack to find these needles, he said, referring to good entertainment selections. Tastebud filters feed and follows other tastemakers as well as read curated critics’ picks.


Data as complete, clean, contextual, consumable information

NEW YORK—When we’re drowning in data but still thirsting for information, what does that say about data’s role out there? Prakash Nanduri, founder and CEO of Paxata, thinks there is a way for business users and information workers to understand data more as information: “when it’s complete, clean, contextual and consumable.”

Nanduri was at the Data-Driven meetup last April 11 at AXA Equitable Center with three other data companies,

Haoyuan Li, CEO of Alluxio on next generation storage; Florian Douetteau, founder and CEO of Dataiku on its data science platform and Sri Ambati, founder and CEO of, with its machine learning API for smarter applications.

With its self-service data preparation software, Nanduri shows us how it works to make information out of data in various phases. From its presentation of visual guidance and library of tools to help everyone make education assumptions, Paxata gives you the tools and guides you proactively with the raw or messy data based on your history of data preparation.

From its library, Paxata recommends improvements based on crowdsourced answers. Lastly, it automatically transforms data for immediate consumption as it continuously learns from user interactions. A visual paradigm, he said, is created.

Can you make a data analyst and data engineer work together? Dataiku’s Doutteau thinks two mindsets can co-exist– the clickers and coders.  “You have to make those two work together.”

Dataiku is the developer of DSS, the integrated development platform for data professionals to turn raw data into predictions. The new integrated visual environment in DSS3 includes a dedicated production node feature that solves the problem of development environments typically disconnected and incompatible with production environments.

One can now deploy, test and roll-back instance of data applications in the data engineering process, which permits the team to build, run and improve data products.

Haoyuan Li, CEO of Alluxio (formerly Tachyon) flew from California to talk about its memory speed virtual distributed storage, with its memory-centric architecture designed for memory i/0.  

Renamed a month ago, Li talked about how Alluxio has come a long way from the time it started in summer 2012 at the University of Berkeley AMPLab to the time it became open source in 2013 to the company’s deployment in 100 companies. It has raised $7.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz, the leading VC firm based in Silicon Valley..

“We power up your workloads,” he said, citing how Baidu queries data 30 times faster (now). “We enable new workloads across storage systems. We work with frameworks of your choices and scale storage and compute independently.”

Ambati of H20 said the company scales statistics, machine learning and math over Big Data. It develops predictive analysis applications for such as tasks as detecting fraudulent transactions, forecasting online customer purchase, and predicting best time for running ads, among others.


Rethinking spreadsheets, voter forms, food and wholesale grocery

NEW YORK—Who likes Excel? If you’re the last holdout to spreadsheets or you’re more visually inclined, Airtable should make you use them more. It’ a complete rethinking of spreadsheets; it makes them colorful with visual aids to boot.

Have you tried doing a spreadsheet on your phone? Other than its grid-based desktop web interface, Airtable also carries a mobile app that formats your table rows, allowing to add and remove records and fields, attach files, share tables just like what it says you should be able to do on your desktop. All inputs are synced on all devices.

Andrew Olfstad presented Airtable at the Design-Driven Meetup at Oscar, the health insurance startup in its Soho offices. The other speakers were Dana Chisnell, co-founder of Center for Civic Design, who is always working toward making voter interaction between government and citizens easier. Boxed’s Jillian Bromley, the wholesale delivery service and Greg Hathaway of Maple, food delivery that offers a rotating daily menu from New York’s culinary talents.  

Chisnell showed how democracy can be a design problem. This happens when voting forms turn out to be too confusing when they’re meant to be as simple and clear as possible. She showed how a voting form in the 2000 presidential elections proved disastrous for democracy.

“Design changes the outcome of elections. Design even affects world peace,” Chisnell said as  the photo of George W. Bush beamed up on the projector screen.

“There was no usability testing in the 2000 elections,” she said as she showed slide after slide of poor ballot designs.  

To improve design of voter forms, she also highlighted the importance of accurate instructional illustrations.

Bromley said Boxed is Costco without the membership fee.  When you sign in, you’ll see a dashboard on the left side with the name and illustrated icons of the items you want delivered in bulk, from groceries and stationery to beverages. If it all seems like everyone else offers delivery these days, Boxed should have a sufficient runway to compete in the e-commerce space with the $100 million it has raised so far.  

Maple is also in the delivery space but it hones in on one thing — food and to keep you coming back, it’s not just any food; it’s made and prepared by New York’s culinary talents reportedly using high-quality ingredients.   

“We have thoughtfully sourced and prepaid cuisine. We are redesigning what we eat,” Hathaway said. “(We are) a restaurant without a restaurant.”  

The lesson he learned from designing the site included how people clicked more on Get Started button than its down arrow.  He also showed how its lunch box packaging evolved through time, which almost looks like jewelry boxes.  

Malcolm Gay talks about Brain Electric at MIT Enterprise Forum

NEW YORK–Last April 5, the MIT Enterprise Forum held a fireside chat with Malcolm Gay who talked about his debut book, “Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines,” at the Pryor Cashman LLP offices and its sprawling view of Times Square.

Gay is an award-winning journalist who holds an MJ from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. His writings and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and Time.

He regaled us with stories of  scientific leaders, their labs, startups and careers and their perseverance and vision in leading the world toward an era when lost limbs and paraplegias are only obstacles of past generations.

On the cusp of decoding brain signals that govern motor skills, neurologists are developing new technologies to enable paraplegics and wounded soldiers to move prosthetic limbs and manipulate computers and other objects through thought alone.

Part life-altering cure, part science fiction, these cutting-edge brain-computer interfaces reportedly promise to improve lives—but also hold the potential to supplant combat capabilities of, say, soldiers.

He talked about emerging technologies behind the scenes — in operating rooms, start-ups, and research labs where the future is unfolding. He asked us to rethink our relationship to technology, our bodies, even consciousness itself—challenging our assumptions about what it means to be human.

The notion of joining the human mind to a machine used to exist only in science fiction, but Gay’s own research made him believe that we have moved past concept stage.

Winslow Burleson,  associate professor of NYU College of Nursing, conducted the fireside chat.

The MIT Enterprise Forum of New York City has for forty years supported entrepreneurs in their efforts to start and run technology-driven business ventures.    


In on-demand economy, cleaning service Handy draws inspiration from hotels

Oisin Hanrahan of Handy

By Dennis Clemente

The on-demand economy  has produced these delivery, ride-sharing and cleaning services.

NEW YORK—Some tech meetups pile up guest speakers to get more bodies in a room, but it seems the movement known as the sharing or on-demand economy doesn’t need much help in terms of drawing in the crowds. They just come.

Last March 29, Applico’s Alex Moazed and General Assembly hosted a packed fireside chat meetup with Handy founder and CEO Oisin Hanrahan as well as speakers and guests from Breather, Luxe, Lyft and Postmates at General Assembly.

Started nearly four years ago, Handy has reportedly booked 2 million transactions and raised $100 M for its cleaning and handyman services, according to Hanrahan. However, he is quick to point out that Handy is tiny for the $8 billion market, which is challenged by liability issues and operational complexity.

Hanrahan said he has always envisioned a world where, at the press of a button, you could get a handyman. “We want to deliver seamless experience at a touch of a button,” he said.

Handrahan draws inspiration from hotels and the convenience they offer and how he likes Handy to work the same way.  “You go to a hotel. You never have to think of these things (cleaning).”

One can tell how Handy has come a long way if it’s got the CTO of Tumblr onboard. “We started with just a whiteboard, a text message service, before it started automating the service with a site and mobile app, and figured out how to route messages to each cleaner and handyman.

“Driving density delivers a better experience,” he said, as bookings now are driving professionals to the platform.

But the on-demand economy is not without its critics who are also challenging startups hiring 1099 workers (contractors, freelancers) as opposed to W2 employees.

“We shouldn’t think of it as a gig economy. What we’re creating is immense flexibility,” he said.

Citing the 27 million Americans who work part-time, he said 1099 workers can set their own working hours.  Of course, there is operational complexity—when both client and cleaner choose to cancel assignments; what Hanrahan calls bookings edited (read: canceled or changed) before any cleaning is done.

“About 40 percent of bookings get edited,” he said.

With a big ad budget, one can find Handy all over New York. “Subway ads work, online and offline marketing work,” he said.

The company had more customers than helpers in the beginning but he said they eventually got the helpers to be part of Handy, which proved crucial in getting investors to buy in to their platform.

The other guests came from other on-demand companies:

Breather offers beautiful, private spaces that can be reserved for any length of time – a short 30 minute recharge or an entire day of productivity.

If you spend too much time looking for parking space, Luxe offers on-demand parking and valet services in New York.  

Lyft is a ride whenever you need one like Uber.

Founded in 2011, Postmates is a logistics company which operates a network of couriers who deliver goods locally. Postmates is closely compared to Uber because of its use of mobile phones to receive orders and dispatch delivery drivers.

The meetup was organized by the NY Sharing Economy meetup.

Gear rental, personalized bedsheets among new e-commerce startups

NEW YORK—Last March 28, District Cowork hosted more than 10 tech startup presentations, the most number of presentations we’ve attended that include feedback from its panel of venture capitalists in this city with Cody Cowan of Cowan NY; Byron Ling of Primary Venture Partners; Jason Fiedler of Red Sea Ventures; Allison KErn of Starvest.

Anjelika Kour, founder and CEO of Brick & Portal, is redefining shopping. Kour said it can scan your inbox and present items you have purchased.

Brick & Portal is a social fashion platform where you can open a store and merchandise it with apparel, accessories, and beauty products from a wide range of top name global retailers and brands. You can customize, build, and curate a personal storefront with your own name and unique url, select the wallpaper and color scheme, then add images, text, and items.

Retailers reportedly handles the shipping of items. “We will scan your inbox. And present you items you have purchased,” she said.

IngotHQ is an AB testing plugin for WordPress sites. Since it claims no one is a CRO expert, it hopes to increase your conversions online. The company reportedly earned $655,200 from its 1-year marketplace deal with MOJO.  It competes against industry leader Optimizely.

EatTiamo’s Pietro Guerrera is offering Italian artisanal produce to address the lack of good authentic Italian food in the US and caters to increasing foodies in the city.

Just arrived 3 weeks ago, EatTiamo claims it has 50 products for sale. It has a revenue model-set up fee from producers. Products are shipped within 2 weeks and more than a month for others from a warehouse in Italy. “Fresh products are impossible to bring here,” he said.

How would you like personalized bed sheets, the kind that speaks to your personality, Flaneur has been taking orders since November last year. It can reportedly make any color for customers and deliver in New York within 7 business days. The customer base accounts or $160,000 in revenue.

GearBooth aspires to be the world’s premier marketplace for musical instruments and instrument guidance. What probably makes it unique is its extensive data collection, user interaction with data and no seller fees. It is addressing the $17 billion market.

It gets 10 percent if you want to sell your own musical instruments on its site.

Serge Lubkin would like to be part of the $16 billion US personal care market. With Jointle, he is offering customers unique and limited eco-friendly products and at the same, helping them save money on products and supplies at the same time.  

Adventure travelers, Rent Ride Return offers you gear rental. The site hopes to be part of the market estimated to be $646 billion. The platform also offers ways for you to save money on rent and rides. As the name suggests, the platform will take care of those three things for you.

Another presenter, CoSign, turns images into digital storefronts. It’s reportedly the first mobile app to make photos shoppable.

UX Panel: Show data, validations to prove how UX design works on company bottom line

NEW YORK–A tremulous voice from the audience posed this question, paraphrasing here, “When do you put your foot down and convince your stakeholders to listen to you about your (UX) design proposal?”

You never do, it turns out, at least to Macy’s UX designer Chris Nordling, one of the other four panelists at the Tech in Motion talk about UX design last March 31.  But how do you actually convince the naysayers your design will help the company?

Nordling clarifies his response by saying how important it is to lead by example: Show them studies and current research from the team and go into the details of how a little micro-interaction or placement of a button has proven to work for a company and how they can do the same.  

“If at all possible, break it down into dollars and cents, back it up with heuristics, other data. Tell them they will lose 40 percent of their audience if they put a certain interaction where it’s not supposed to be. Get validation also from other practitioners instead of saying you’re right,” he said.

And if we heard right, one panelist said UX’s major role in the success of a company cannot be underestimated., if over 200% of the companies in the stock market has UX to thank for their success. The other panelists, US practitioners all, were John Walker of Verizon, Jess Brown of Vice Media and Danny Setiawan of the Economist.

For those new to UX or user experience, why does design matter? A question that still persists because not many people think design is all about solving problems.

Said Brown, “It’s not just superficial,” as she recounts how it’s still common for people to wonder what UX designers like her actually accomplish in a brainstorming session, which did not really needed a response as we’ve seen how those sessions energize the staff to improve on things.

Overall, the panelists were in agreement about how UX is there solve human problems and our interaction with the world—from a door knob to a road system. Setiawan said UX delivers value to users when UX practitoners applies user research and customers’ feeback to their product or service.

When creating products, Walker reminded UX professionals about the need for consistency across platforms and devices. “You don’t want users to lose progress (from one device to another),” Walker said.

Where is the UX esthetic getting some significant believers? Nordling said everything he’s doing now is for mobile and how, at least at Macy’s where he works, the customer is always defined as a “she.”

Said Setiawan, “We need to be more open how customers want to use a product,” adding how the next driverless cars will need content – and UX thinking.

How do you test your product? Setiawan says The Economist is holding a user test soon to find out how to attract a younger demographic for The Economist which is a good, accessible read and just perceived wrongfully as snobbish by many and business-centric by most.

For startups looking to hire UX designers but cannot afford them, Nordling advises them to build a network of contacts like the people they will meet at meetups and just talk to them. He said he relies on his friends.  

For aspiring UX designers, one has to start somewhere. Walker’s advice: “Listen to everybody.”